Pastor Joel Osteen Is The Target Of A Complex Online Hoax | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Pastor Joel Osteen Is The Target Of A Complex Online Hoax

April Fool's Day was one week ago — but an elaborate hoax targeting Pastor Joel Osteen gained wide attention Monday, after those behind the hoax used Twitter, YouTube, and other social media to spread spurious claims that the pastor had renounced his faith and would close his huge Texas church.

But the story isn't true, according to The Houston Chronicle, which reports that "Lakewood Church officials are aware of the hoax and 'false rumor,'" quoting church representative Andrea Davis.

And on Osteen's Twitter feed this morning, the pastor's staff responded to a question about the story by writing, "It is a false rumor: Pastor Joel is not leaving the church." It now seems that that rather enigmatic tweet may have set off more interest in the fake story Monday than had been generated when the hoax was hatched last week.

To perpetrate the hoax, a convincing media "bubble" was constructed, complete with a fake Twitter feed (that's now been suspended) and a website that duplicated the look of Osteen's actual site — but with one "e" in the pastor's last name in the URL address. The website was not available for part of Monday afternoon, seemingly a victim not of punitive action but of over-loaded servers.

The fake site featured a letter titled "I am leaving the Christian faith," in which the person posing as Osteen thanked his wife, his congregation, "the State of Texas and my close friends, Oprah Winfrey and Larry King, for all of our support over the years."

The hoax was bolstered by a YouTube video that included mock-up images of the websites of CNN, Drudge Report, and Yahoo — all with headlines blaring the false news that Osteen had repudiated Christianity. The video was uploaded by "ChristianityNews," via an account that seems to have been set up earlier this month.

The hoax seems to have convinced some folks of the story's legitimacy, as the fake Twitter feed confirmed the news on the fake website. Comments on the video and elsewhere ranged from expressions of sadness to congratulations.

The fake site also included what it claimed were reactions from Osteen's congregation. Here's an example: "'We'll pray for him. He's come under the influence of the Devil,' said Margaret Samson, a twelve-year member of the church."

On Facebook, some of Osteen's actual followers wrote to say they weren't fooled by the hoax, while others sought clarification from the pastor. His social media feeds and verified websites have made almost no mention of the hoax.

A WordPress version of the fake site was taken down Monday afternoon, replaced by a message that its operators had violated their terms of service.

A domain search for the registration of the fake "Osten Ministries" site reveals that it was created on April 1, 2013, and registered to an entity listed as BMG Enterprises in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the time of this post, an email to the contact person listed for the site had not been answered.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, Sept. 18

You can attend an annual Latin American film festival or see a new play about strength, war and family.

NPR

From Coffee To Chicory To Beer, 'Bitter' Flavor Can Be Addictive

If you don't think you like bitter foods, try them again. Jennifer McLagan, the author of Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor, is on a mission to change hearts and minds.
NPR

Ukrainian President Thanks Congress For Supporting Freedom

Petro Poroshenko called Russia's annexation of Crimea a "cynical act of treachery." He is in the U.S. meeting with President Obama and others to lobby for increased aid to fight insurgents.
NPR

Apple: iOS 8 Prevents Cooperation With Police Unlocking Requests

In the rollout of its new mobile operating system, Apple says it has made it technically impossible for the company to unlock phone data, even in response to a law enforcement warrant.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.